It should be no secret by now that plastics, in particular single use plastics, are a problem. The EU has even banned them, though only starting in 2021. We don’t have to wait that long. As consumers, we can get ahead of this problem and demand change now. Also, at this point, whether the UK will still be in the EU in 2021 is rather murky…
But we don’t have to wait for the EU to do this for us. Deliveroo is the perfect vehicle to get restaurants to up their game and stop using wasteful plastic packaging (not least because they have already stated their desire to do so – they’re on our side here!). And you can do this yourself, and I am pretty sure that every person who does this will add up to a cumulative impact that will create real change.
How can Deliveroo help?
Deliveroo deals with thousands of restaurants across the UK. They don’t make the food or package it, but they have some influence over how that’s done. For example, they recently added an option (defaulted to “no”) for whether you want cutlery with your order. They already want to do this. But it’s still quite slow, so maybe they could use a bit of help, a bit of extra motivation. As you’ll see in this post, most of the packaging that Deliveroo restaurants use is still full of plastic. And that plastic, used just once, ends up in our landfills1, in our water supply, our food supply – for hundreds of years. The cost of me ordering a takeaway tonight includes a bunch of innocent people and animals being poisoned in 50 years. Do you like that thought? I don’t.
How can they help? Easy. Much like with the cutlery checkbox, they could ask, encourage, cajole and occasionally coerce (for the final laggards) their restaurants to start offering plastic-free deliveries. There are many companies that provide compostable food packaging, that works for hot food, soups, and so on. Here’s one environmentally friendly food packaging company, found through a quick search. Hell, Deliveroo themselves sell suitable packaging (though some of the stuff they sell is plastic, still). Solutions to this have existed for decades. The only reason restaurants continue using plastics is because people don’t seem to care. We can change that perception.
So Deliveroo want to help and definitely can help. What’s stopping them? I don’t know, but I can hazard a guess. Deliveroo is a big company, with investors, employees, many stakeholders, etc. In any such company, things move slowly, and lots of agendas compete for attention. The agenda of “eliminating single use plastics” is there (especially since the law is likely to require it by 2021 anyway), but it’s still quite low on the priority scale.
Let’s help the people at Deliveroo who want to solve this, to show how much of a problem this is. Read on to find out how.
The Scale of the Problem
Here’s a photo of the plastic I’ve received from Deliveroo restaurants over the last month or so. Yes, I do use Deliveroo a fair bit. And that makes me a prime candidate for letting Deliveroo know that I’d like them to do better.
Step 1 is to keep this plastic instead of throwing it away. This is helpful for me, too, to make myself aware of just how much plastic we’re talking about. That’s a lot of fucking plastic. The idea that just to eat, I end up demanding2 this much single-use plastic into existence, is frightening, horrifying. If I can’t solve this, yeah, I should probably stop using Deliveroo. Because this is just not right.3
How much plastic do you have to collect? Up to you. I imagine this will have an effect even if you just send one box at a time, in an envelope (though your postage costs will be fairly substantial then). You certainly don’t need to send as much as I did. We’re trying to fill a cup here, and every drop helps.
Step 2 is, once you have collected this plastic, put it in a packaging box (cardboard, hopefully), and ship it back to someone at Deliveroo. Who? Anyone who sounds like they might be able to help. Log into LinkedIn and search for people who work at Deliveroo (search for “Deliveroo Product”). Find their name 4. Find the address for Deliveroo HQ (Spoiler: it’s 1 Cannon Bridge House, 1 Cousin Lane, London EC4R 3TE), and address the package containing all this plastic to the person, by name (perhaps including their department to make it easier).
Step 3: before you close the box, print (or, as I did, write out by hand) and include a version of the following letter, adjusted however you wish, to make the point. This is the letter I sent. You should probably drop the sentence about my personal blog, or at least tweak it, unless you’re me (if you just want a letter you can print without editing, click here):
I am writing to you as one of your regular customers. I am signed up to Deliveroo Plus, and I make frequent orders from your affiliated restaurants. I love your service – it is reliable, quick, cost-effective – and in all weathers! I don’t have the spare energy many evenings to cook for myself, but I don’t want to eat junk food or packaged food, and Deliveroo helps me eat relatively healthy food more regularly.
The only thing that bothers me about your service is the vast amount of plastic used by your affiliated restaurants. I have enclosed the single-use plastic generated in the last month or so of use.
All this plastic will be in this world for hundreds of years, most likely decomposing into microplastics that will end up in our water and our food. So effectively, for each order of Deliveroo that I am making, I am creating demand for a piece of plastic that will still be polluting our planet hundreds of years after my death. This makes me sad.
I believe Deliveroo is in an absolutely ideal position to be part of the solution to this problem, which requires coordinated action across many small companies across London (and perhaps the rest of the world). You already offer an option to request that food be delivered without unnecessary cutlery. You could add another one requesting for food to be delivered using only compostable packaging, and enable restaurants to advertise this capability in your listings.
I for one would happily pay £1 extra per order to avoid creating all this plastic demand. And I don’t even think it has to cost extra, once this trend gets going. Compostable packaging is not substantially more expensive than plastic packaging. This company offers compostable packaging amongst its various options, including for soup and hot foods: https://www.biopac.co.uk. Deliveroo itself sells compostable packaging!
I have posted this open letter, along with pictures detailing this story, to my personal blog, http://danieltenner.com. I think this is a great opportunity for Deliveroo to lead the way and associate its brand with something hugely positive and important on a society-wide level
I will publish any answer from you personally or from Deliveroo as updates to the blog post if you agree to it..
Step 4: Post it and wait. The package will likely find its way to its intended destination, via the miracle of internal corporate mail. When it does, its recipient will think “Oh wow, a package, for me?” and get excited. They’ll open the package, and find it full of empty plastic packaging, and get annoyed (dear recipient: I’m sorry; it’s for a good cause). They’ll hopefully read the letter, and make a mental note that this is annoying and it would be nice if this problem was solved.
Step 5: Let me know (email daniel at tenner dot org) that you’ve done this and I’ll add your name here. If you have written up a blog post or Medium post or even just a public facebook post, let me know and I will link to that. Help us build some momentum!
If I’m the only one who does this, then it perhaps won’t have much of an effect. If a few people do this, quite regularly, however, it will keep upping the priority of solving the plastic packaging problem, in the corporate prioritisation hierarchy. I imagine even getting as few as 10 such packages a month would become a major talking point inside Deliveroo pretty quickly. It’s a fantastic, relatively effortless, non-violent way to make a point. Eventually, this will be an important enough problem to just get it bloody solved now, if only to stop random people at the office receiving packages full of empty plastics, because Joe in accounting received 3 of them just last week and this is getting ridiculous. Can we please just get this solved?
You can imagine the rest of those conversations. They’re quite entertaining, in my head at least.
Job done! Wasn’t that easy? Well done for changing the world!
What if you can’t do this?
You can still help by sharing this blog post more widely so it reaches someone who has the time and resources and desire to help with this. Thank you.
Why don’t you just stop using Deliveroo and cook for yourself?
Because even if I do this, it will have almost no effect on the problem as hundreds of thousands of other people will continue to order takeaway food in single-use plastic containers. If, on the other hand, I can nudge Deliveroo towards getting their restaurants to adopt compostable packaging as a default, that makes a big change more likely.
Will Deliveroo get back to me about this?
I hope so. If they do, I’ll post an update. My details are easy to find. In the meantime, ladies, gentlemen, and other non-binary humanoids who care about plastics, let’s start working on improving Deliveroo’s prioritisation algorithm.
There were some restaurants which I ordered from which were already serving food in biodegradable packaging (at least the food I got from them): Honest Burgers (who make a delicious Beyond Meat burger) and Café Route. Good on them!
What are you waiting for? Let’s do this 🙂
Even if it’s “recycled”, that just turns it into more plastic, that is likely not recyclable, and still eventually ends up in nature. And let’s face it, most recyclable plastic isn’t recycled anyway. Remember the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, in that order.↩
By buying something that contains single-use plastic, I create demand for that single-use plastic, which I’m calling “demanding into existence”↩
By the way, I would advise washing the plastic if you’re going to keep it. Otherwise, it will stink. And it’ll make your point harder to receive. No one wants to be met with the stink of weeks old rotting food when they open their post.↩
I’m sending mine to Nina de Souza, who appears to be Head of Consumer Product at Deliveroo. Aim high, why not.↩